jd989898

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I just finished my first semester of sophomore year and I'm wondering if I can get any advice/pointers. My goal is admission to an MD/PhD program. Here's some stats:

School: Texas A&M University

Major: Biology B.S. (possibly getting a minor in mathematics)
GPA:
freshman: 4.0/3.73
freshman summer: 4.0
sophomore: 4.0
cGPA: 3.925

So far the major courses I've taken include intro bio, intro chem, calc 1/2, intro psych, cell biology, and 1st semester physics and ochem.

I'm planning on taking the new MCAT, so I'm hoping to also take a biochemistry, human anatomy/physiology, and sociology course before then.

Volunteering:
1.5 years volunteering to help teach local GED class (8 hours/wk) -- Most meaningful
~50 hours volunteering in an Emergency Room
~50 hours volunteering in a Family medicine clinic

Research
No publications or anything yet, but I just began a paid research position last month with my university involving quantitative biological research. It's a pretty reputable program, so hopefully it will produce some good experience.

Employment
I'm a supplemental instruction leader at my university. I also worked a bunch of part time jobs for extra cash, but I doubt I'll include any of them on my app as they won't be long term (briefly wrote for the school newspaper, worked at mcdonalds, worked at a math tutoring center, etc.)

My only concern so far is lack of shadowing(which I will do soon), and I'm not a member of any clubs. Don't really have time for clubs, and the premed societies seemed like a waste of time when I tried them out.

Oh, and I'm a white male if that matters..
 

Espadaleader

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Include part time jobs in your application.
 
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Wonton Soup

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First question, why do you want to do an MD/PhD?
+1, aside from the research you just started it doesn't seem like you've had many other research experiences- how do you know if you'll like it enough to spend so much time training to essentially become an academic?
 
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jd989898

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First question, why do you want to do an MD/PhD?
I really enjoy math, science, and critical thinking. With a PhD, in addition to being able to do clinician work, I feel like I'd be able to exercise my mind more in meaningful research projects, rather than just seeing patients all day every day. Also, my dad is a doctor and his advice was to go for an MD/PhD. In his words, "look at all the people that are in charge of other people, they usually have the most degrees and credentials. If you have the opportunity to get the MD/PhD go for it."

Include part time jobs in your application.
Even if they were temporary? I thought adcoms wanted to see consistency and persistence with ECs.

+1, aside from the research you just started it doesn't seem like you've had many other research experiences- how do you know if you'll like it enough to spend so much time training to essentially become an academic?
I also participated in a research "camp" type thing the summer after my freshman year that essentially functioned to introduce undergrads to research. I enjoyed it.
 
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Reckoner

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Sounds like you're doing fine. Don't worry too much about shadowing or other clubs - it sounds like you'll have 200+ hours clinical experience by the time you apply, which is more than enough for these programs. The most important factor by a mile is your research experience. Is your current project something you can stick with until you graduate/apply? Are you planning to apply as a senior or after graduating? Starting research as a sophomore means you will only have had 1.5 years research experience when you apply (if you apply as a senior), which is fairly low. I wouldn't stress about publications, though. If you end up with one, great. If not, it won't be looked at as a negative. Focus on taking as much of a leadership role as you can in the lab, making sure you have a great relationship with your PI, and rocking the MCAT!
 
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Wonton Soup

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I really enjoy math, science, and critical thinking. With a PhD, in addition to being able to do clinician work, I feel like I'd be able to exercise my mind more in meaningful research projects, rather than just seeing patients all day every day. Also, my dad is a doctor and his advice was to go for an MD/PhD. In his words, "look at all the people that are in charge of other people, they usually have the most degrees and credentials. If you have the opportunity to get the MD/PhD go for it."


Even if they were temporary? I thought adcoms wanted to see consistency and persistence with ECs.


I also participated in a research "camp" type thing the summer after my freshman year that essentially functioned to introduce undergrads to research. I enjoyed it.
It's still early in the game to be set on enlisting in this especially arduous track. I would definitely recommend spending some more time engaging in research projects and then seeing after this year if you're still interested, and if so, best of luck!
 

RogueUnicorn

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I really enjoy math, science, and critical thinking. With a PhD, in addition to being able to do clinician work, I feel like I'd be able to exercise my mind more in meaningful research projects, rather than just seeing patients all day every day. Also, my dad is a doctor and his advice was to go for an MD/PhD. In his words, "look at all the people that are in charge of other people, they usually have the most degrees and credentials. If you have the opportunity to get the MD/PhD go for it."
Academic MDs do this all this time, why specifically the PhD? Do you want to be in charge of other people? What do you envision doing with your career? I'm asking these questions not to challenge you, but because I'd like to make sure you have a good foundation upon which to heap my "wisdom"
 

MDOnlyWillDo

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I really enjoy math, science, and critical thinking. With a PhD, in addition to being able to do clinician work, I feel like I'd be able to exercise my mind more in meaningful research projects, rather than just seeing patients all day every day. Also, my dad is a doctor and his advice was to go for an MD/PhD. In his words, "look at all the people that are in charge of other people, they usually have the most degrees and credentials. If you have the opportunity to get the MD/PhD go for it." I also participated in a research "camp" type thing the summer after my freshman year that essentially functioned to introduce undergrads to research. I enjoyed it.
Not to diss your dad or anything, but that's a terrible reason to do MD/PhD. You have to work for a minimum of one year with a PI who is MD/PhD when they are doing grant renewal- if you can still say that's the life for you, go for it.
 
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jd989898

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Academic MDs do this all this time, why specifically the PhD? Do you want to be in charge of other people? What do you envision doing with your career? I'm asking these questions not to challenge you, but because I'd like to make sure you have a good foundation upon which to heap my "wisdom"
I want to help people as a physician directly because clinical work sounds fulfilling, but I also want to attempt to use my mind to help people on the larger scale. Perhaps a research project I end up embarking on could yield some sort of scientific advancement (maybe pharmaceutical) that helps millions of people around the world. I know that's not likely to happen, but I think that would be one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Not to diss your dad or anything, but that's a terrible reason to do MD/PhD. You have to work for a minimum of one year with a PI who is MD/PhD when they are doing grant renewal- if you can still say that's the life for you, go for it.
So what do you think is a good reason to do MD/PhD?
 

RogueUnicorn

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I want to help people as a physician directly because clinical work sounds fulfilling, but I also want to attempt to use my mind to help people on the larger scale. Perhaps a research project I end up embarking on could yield some sort of scientific advancement (maybe pharmaceutical) that helps millions of people around the world. I know that's not likely to happen, but I think that would be one of the greatest feelings in the world.
I think, without knowing you well, and based on your answers so far my number one suggestion is for your to talk to and maybe shadow some academic docs, both MDs and MD/PhDs. With due respect to you, even considering the fact that you're a relatively young person finding his/her way at the moment (which is great), it doesn't seem to me that your thought process regarding career is particularly well formed. More than anything, I think it's because you don't know what academics do with their training, especially PhD training. This is partially due to the fact that your research experience is on the lighter side at the moment, something to be expected from a novice scientist but a factor nonetheless. The truth of the matter is a lot of people, particularly younger people, are attracted to the MD/PhD because of perceived prestige/financial benefits without fully considering all aspects of the route, and it can be a bit of a turn-off. Not accusing you of this at all, but you run the risk of being branded as such without a more coherent rationale IMO. I say this as a former MD/PhD person myself.
 
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jd989898

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I think, without knowing you well, and based on your answers so far my number one suggestion is for your to talk to and maybe shadow some academic docs, both MDs and MD/PhDs. With due respect to you, even considering the fact that you're a relatively young person finding his/her way at the moment (which is great), it doesn't seem to me that your thought process regarding career is particularly well formed. More than anything, I think it's because you don't know what academics do with their training, especially PhD training. This is partially due to the fact that your research experience is on the lighter side at the moment, something to be expected from a novice scientist but a factor nonetheless. The truth of the matter is a lot of people, particularly younger people, are attracted to the MD/PhD because of perceived prestige/financial benefits without fully considering all aspects of the route, and it can be a bit of a turn-off. Not accusing you of this at all, but you run the risk of being branded as such without a more coherent rationale IMO. I say this as a former MD/PhD person myself.
Thanks for the advice, I feel like I have a decent idea of what a PhD researcher does, but I probably don't. Hopefully that will come with more time in the research game. Just out of curiosity, could you explain the bolded? From what I understand there are no financial benefits to the MD/PhD route, and if anything is more costly in the long run. I suppose the prestige attracts some people, though. I guess having more letters after your name is worth the dissertation and everything for some people lol.
 

RogueUnicorn

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Thanks for the advice, I feel like I have a decent idea of what a PhD researcher does, but I probably don't.
But an MD/PhD researcher will almost certainly have a different career
Hopefully that will come with more time in the research game. Just out of curiosity, could you explain the bolded? From what I understand there are no financial benefits to the MD/PhD route, and if anything is more costly in the long run. I suppose the prestige attracts some people, though. I guess having more letters after your name is worth the dissertation and everything for some people lol.
With this knowledge alone you're ahead of the game compared to a huge number of your (and even my) peers. It's an incorrect perception of a non-existent benefit.
 
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MDOnlyWillDo

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What I meant is that you should never spend 7 (or more) years of your life pursuing a taxing career only for the ability to boss people around or have three more letters after your name. To add onto RogueUnicorn's statements, MD/PhD gain their education gratis, that's the only financial benefit I've ever seen. Living off research funding sucks.

There is a difference between MD/PhD and just MD or just PhD. I think you listed a good reason for MD/PhD, translational medicine is very important. In my experience, the reason to do it is if you really want to spend your life in the lab, designing research questions of a molecular/genetic/biologic/chemical nature, and briefly address patients on the side. Over their careers, I've seen the MD part of their education fall by the wayside and pretty much only go after grants and research monies as PhDs. They are less clinicians and more scientists, running labs as PIs, writing grant proposals, developing research studies, trying to keep the lab afloat, etc. It's the reason I abandoned the PhD and decided to just go for MD- I didn't want to be a basic scientist, I wanted to be a clinician first, developing clinical research questions I could do with my patients.
 
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jd989898

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Okay well I'm not 100% sure I want MD/PhD anymore. Just don't know feel like I can make decisions about things this far in the future right now. If I didn't go into the medical field, I'd probably go into math to be honest. Even if I do end up going solely MD, am I on the right track? Anything to focus on strengthening on my app for the time being?
 

MDOnlyWillDo

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The beauty is that you don't have to make this decision yet. Go shadow MD/PhDs, and go shadow those with either degree- get a feel for what they're doing and which one appeals to you. As for strengthening your app, I don't have any advice- I don't see any glaring holes and I hate suggesting ECs just to fill up more experiences boxes on the app. Hopefully others more knowledgeable than I can help.
 
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jd989898

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The beauty is that you don't have to make this decision yet. Go shadow MD/PhDs, and go shadow those with either degree- get a feel for what they're doing and which one appeals to you. As for strengthening your app, I don't have any advice- I don't see any glaring holes and I hate suggesting ECs just to fill up more experiences boxes on the app. Hopefully others more knowledgeable than I can help.
Thanks again for your help. Hopefully my ECs will develop more this year and next year.
 
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OP, feel free to PM me any time. I struggled with whether I wanted to apply MD/PhD or not for a long time (in part because I'm actually stronger as an MD/PhD candidate than I am as an MD candidate). After much soul searching, working in research full time, participating in and leading various types of projects, and speaking to a slew of MD/PhDs, I decided to not apply for the join programs. We can chat at length about the details but it boils down to questioning what your research aims will be in the future and whether a PhD is necessary. For me, it will not be although I fully expect to actively participate in research throughout my career.

Also, check out the Harvard HST program - that's pretty much the best of both worlds!
 
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MDOnlyWillDo

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OP, feel free to PM me any time. I struggled with whether I wanted to apply MD/PhD or not for a long time (in part because I'm actually stronger as an MD/PhD candidate than I am as an MD candidate). After much soul searching, working in research full time, participating in and leading various types of projects, and speaking to a slew of MD/PhDs, I decided to not apply for the join programs. We can chat at length about the details but it boils down to questioning what your research aims will be in the future and whether a PhD is necessary. For me, it will not be although I fully expect to actively participate in research throughout my career.

Also, check out the Harvard HST program - that's pretty much the best of both worlds!
I could have written this word for word- I agree!
 
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jd989898

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OP, feel free to PM me any time. I struggled with whether I wanted to apply MD/PhD or not for a long time (in part because I'm actually stronger as an MD/PhD candidate than I am as an MD candidate). After much soul searching, working in research full time, participating in and leading various types of projects, and speaking to a slew of MD/PhDs, I decided to not apply for the join programs. We can chat at length about the details but it boils down to questioning what your research aims will be in the future and whether a PhD is necessary. For me, it will not be although I fully expect to actively participate in research throughout my career.

Also, check out the Harvard HST program - that's pretty much the best of both worlds!
I just checked out the Harvard HST program and it looks amazing.

" HST students are trained to have deep understanding of engineering, physical sciences, and the biological sciences, complemented with hands-on experience in the clinic or in industry; and they become conversant with the underlying quantitative and molecular aspects of medicine and biomedical science."

Couldn't be more in line with my interests. I imagine it's almost impossible to gain admission to, though.
 
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I just checked out the Harvard HST program and it looks amazing.

" HST students are trained to have deep understanding of engineering, physical sciences, and the biological sciences, complemented with hands-on experience in the clinic or in industry; and they become conversant with the underlying quantitative and molecular aspects of medicine and biomedical science."

Couldn't be more in line with my interests. I imagine it's almost impossible to gain admission to, though.
Ugh, tell me about it. They do take up to 30 (but not necessarily?) people a year though so, actually, there are more spots in the HST class than in a typical MD/PhD program at an institution.
 
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jd989898

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Ugh, tell me about it. They do take up to 30 (but not necessarily?) people a year though so, actually, there are more spots in the HST class than in a typical MD/PhD program at an institution.
Not really familiar with MDApps but it looks like you got an interview for HST? Congrats!

Just checked out their admissions requirements, and it looks like I have to take calculus based physics, calc 3, diff eq, and linear algebra lol.
 
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Ugh, tell me about it. They do take up to 30 (but not necessarily?) people a year though so, actually, there are more spots in the HST class than in a typical MD/PhD program at an institution.
Edit: more info coming from a recent (about 5 years ago) grad as well as from my PI - who was a part of the program about 15 years ago - and from one of the program directors.

As a student in the HST program you are completely separate from the rest of the Harvard class until the clinical years. HST requires that you do research, but your schedule includes protected time to do that research, meaning that you can be involved throughout the year. HST comes with a lot more class time. Not only do you learn all the info expected of your MD degree, you also sit with the graduate students in various MIT departments and learn about the mechanisms that underlie disease as well as the current (and historic) research that is being done to discover these mechanisms further.

As I was told, in medical school there is too much to learn. You learn that drug x helps disease y and you kind of touch of general mechanisms but at the end of the day you accept the relationship because you need to learn 20 other things. HST forces you to go ahead and figure out why the relationship exists....not sure how this jives with "too much to learn" for the medicine part :)

All in all, HST students come out of their two year experience with the training to do clinical (or basic) research. The intellectual, creative, analytical, and critical skills you learn in graduate school are what you gain in addition to the medical know-how. It's more learning, period, for the same degree. It's also a a nice gold star on your future research resume.

For me, the true draw is the protected research time. Most other MD programs, even when they require a research component, don't give you protected time in the curriculum to be involved in research and still graduate in 4 years. You are expected to do research over the summer (not long enough) or work very hard to balance it into the rest of your education.

Edit2: You have to be "comfortable" with upper level math, not have necessarily taken it. I haven't taken diffeq or linear algebra, but I've gained a bit of knowledge in both through data processing and computational modeling - that counts :)
 

RogueUnicorn

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HST is exponentially harder to get into than MSTPs, I wouldn't consider that to be a viable alternative

OP, I didn't mean to discourage from the MD/PhD route. It's a rewarding and valuable path for many, but not for others. It's up to you to fully evaluate your options and it seems you intend to do so. Good luck with it
 
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jd989898

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Damn now I'm kind of in love with the Harvard HST program lol. What kind of numbers/students get in there? Is there anything I can do other than display as strong of an interest as I can in quantitative biology research? Besides keeping my numbers high/developing ECs more of course. I was already planning on getting a math minor so I think I should satisfy their math requirements.
 

scarletgirl777

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Even in a medical school without protected research time, it is very possible to get involved in research during the preclinical curriculum. The grades you get in the first two years are not very important for residency, so if you go to a medical school with little mandatory class time and/or a lot of half days of classes, you can often find time to do at least clinical research projects. In addition, many schools are moving towards a Pass/Fail curriculum in the first two years anyway, and many of those schools just happen to be very research-minded. I'm sort of incredulous that there's any medical school out there where it's easy to run gels and raise mice during the first two years of med school (other than Duke or Cleveland Clinic because they have that protected research year built in) but I'm not familiar with the HST curriculum so I'll take these other people's word for it that you can do basic science experiments as an MS1 or Ms2 there.
 

URHere

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Here is some general advice:

Earning a PhD is brutal. I'm not saying that it isn't useful, or fascinating, or worthwhile, but you should not even think about MD/PhD programs until you have some idea of what a research career really looks like.

It is great that you have gotten involved with research, but now you need to expand on that experience. Learn all of the techniques you can, become very familiar with the literature in your field, work your way up to an independent project, apply for grants/internships/fellowships through your school or over the summer, present at conferences, and try to play a part in writing papers/grants with your group if at all possible. The MD/PhD path is designed for people who want to spend a significant part of their careers in a research role and that role will involve each of those things to some extent.

If you enjoy the process and you want it to be a part of your life in the long-term, then maybe an MD/PhD track could be right for you. Ironically, although you may add prestige by adding both degrees, in some ways you will actually be making it more difficult to establish yourself as either a researcher or a clinician: you will be away from research for a minimum of 5 years during residency, which will make it difficult to stay competitive for grants, and you can only spend hours in lab if you take time away from clinic so you may always be competing with people who have more time to devote to their medical training than you do. Before you apply, you need to decide if you want the MD/PhD path badly enough to deal with that. "Exercising your mind" generally isn't enough of a reason, but the dual path can be very fulfilling if you go into it for the right reasons.

Here is some more practical advice:

At this stage, you can't really know if an MD/PhD program is right for you, so just keep your bases covered. Stay involved with research and (as I said above) just get as involved as you possibly can. Keep your GPA up, work hard when it's time to take the MCAT, but more than anything take some time to pursue things that you enjoy. That's the only way to figure out what you really want to do with your life.
 
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darkjedi

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I would suggest checking out this forum as well http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forums/physician-scientist-md-phd-md-ms-dds-phd.32/ to perhaps learn about what is unique to MD/PhDs

There is quite a bit you can do as far as academic research goes with purely an MD. All those qualities you've stated, as far as using your mind and helping people on a large scale, is still work done by MDs doing clinical and bench research. MD/PhDs is a very specific career path that usually people who wish to run their own research labs want to get.
 

LizzyM

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JD989898, you are getting great advice here. Whatever you do toward prep for MD/PhD should help you if you decide to apply to MD alone. Your goal should be part-time work in a lab during the next 2.5 years and full time in lab during the summers of 2014 and 2015.

In deciding whether to go MD only or MD/PhD, think seriously about how much time you would like to spend with patients. The typical MD/PhD is going to have 20% time in clinical setting (2 half days per week) and 80% time in the lab which, over time, will be less and less time "at the bench" and more and more supervising underlings, chasing grant money, preparing publications, and presenting work at conferences and as a guest lecturer. The time you spend with patients will be very narrowly focused within a subspecialty related to your research. If that sounds wonderful, then MD/PhD might be a good fit for you.

Do spend plenty of time with patients in hospital and ambulatory settings. One thing we do see is MD/PhD candidates who have not spent enough time with patients and then when they do get to the wards they find that they love it and they really don't want to go back to the lab and then the time spent up until then in pursuit of the PhD seems for naught.
 

Microglia

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Okay well I'm not 100% sure I want MD/PhD anymore. Just don't know feel like I can make decisions about things this far in the future right now. If I didn't go into the medical field, I'd probably go into math to be honest. Even if I do end up going solely MD, am I on the right track? Anything to focus on strengthening on my app for the time being?
Don't be intimidated by all the strongly worded posters here. People tend to strongly caution any college student who utters the words MD/PhD haha. MD/PhD is a career for people who want to do translational medicine, and discover new treatments, not just prescribe existing ones. It's mostly for people who enjoy out of the box thinking. I think the path could be for you, and I agree with others that you should shadow an MD/PhD sometime and see what it's like. Other than that, keep researching and don't stress too much. If you are the type of person who would have gone into academic math if not medicine, you probably would love the MD/PhD track.
 

CarlosDanger

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OP, feel free to PM me any time. I struggled with whether I wanted to apply MD/PhD or not for a long time (in part because I'm actually stronger as an MD/PhD candidate than I am as an MD candidate). After much soul searching, working in research full time, participating in and leading various types of projects, and speaking to a slew of MD/PhDs, I decided to not apply for the join programs. We can chat at length about the details but it boils down to questioning what your research aims will be in the future and whether a PhD is necessary. For me, it will not be although I fully expect to actively participate in research throughout my career.

Also, check out the Harvard HST program - that's pretty much the best of both worlds!
EDIT: Oops, my dog just posted that. But I agree!
 
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